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October 2007 Archives

October 6, 2007

Books not to buy: Sebastian Darke: Prince of Fools.

Sebastian Darke: Prince of Fools is an awful thing to realise you spent six quid on.

At first, I thought it was a Musicians of Bremen plot, which seemed interesting. You know, a group of people who set off to make their fortunes, then get sidetracked into something better and settle down together happily.

The dialogue and characterisation was weak, and there's occassional Drawings from the Uncanny Valley, but I kept reading because I thought this was just a consequence of the fairy tale plot.

I was, of course, wrong. It quickly took a sharp right turn into cliché. They meet a spoiled princess, who reforms in .3 seconds. She has an evil uncle, who even thinks about how fun it is to be evil, who is trying to kill her. The heroes get blamed for her absence, she's sold into slavery, they rescue her, she gives a speech, rallying the commonfolk, and takes things back.

More about the heroes in a moment. Let's first talk about enemies By legal requirement in Philip Caveney's world, anyone evil must be described as being big and having a beard. The beard is best described every single sentence. For example:

There was a long silence while the men appraised each other. Then the bearded man stepped forwards, his sword raised. Cornelius waited, his expression calm. The man launched an attack, and Cornelius performed that lazy, almost imperceptable flick of the wrist. His opponent took a couple more steps forward, his eyes staring straight ahead, a bright pool of blood blossoming on his chest. Then he missed a step and went tumbling down the staircase.

Another, surprisingly similar one:
There were shouts of encouragement from Red Beard's companions and he looked around them for moral support, before shrugging his shoulders, hefting his huge double-handed sword, and stepping forward to meet Cornelius... The manling gave an almost imperceptable flick of his wrist, the silver blade blurred into motion and the big man grunted in surprise, clutching at his stomach.

And a third:

The bearded man and Cornelius stood in the dimly lit barn staring at each other.... The bearded man lunged forward, his sword raised to strike, but Cornelius parried the blow with his own blade and then performed a quick somersault up onto the tabletop... he intercepted a second blow and ran the bearded man through.

The heroes, meanwhile? A hairless dwarf with a baby-like features. A half-elf jester (OMG hated because of his half-breed status!) with empathetic powers to see the truth about people's character that strangely only ever kicks in when plot convenient, and otherwise fails. A talking buffalope (Why, why did I read past that word?). And a spoiled princess who becomes unspoiled in three pages, then is unable to do anything else but have the narrator preach at her for the rest of the book. Because, you know, the reader might not realise slavery is wrong, or that, um... alright, I'm not quite sure what lesson she learns from seeing people squabbling over bread while she thinks of the dinners back at the palace she didn't eat, and which in a working palace would have been happily eaten by the servants. But I suppose that the author had a child who wouldn't eat his vegetables, and needed a way of lecturing him.

In the end, the princess rejects the jester so that she can make a diplomatic alliance by marriage (people still do that plot?) and there's a deus ex machina map found. Both are awful writing to allow a sequel on the high seas. I'm sure there will be lots of Cornelius making almost imperceptible flicks of his wrist which kill bearded bearded bearded pirates. However, funnily enough, I won't be reading it

Avoid this book at all costs.

October 12, 2007

I hadn't seen some of those before

Still working a lot, exercising a lot and trying to get comics done. Battling computer problems in two places at the same time (again), though in the case of the studio PC, I've asked Calvin to do the battling in my place. Still not a lot of energy left to write in this here blog, though I could think of a few things to write about.

Quickly then: Have some cartoons attacking creationism, some of which I hadn't seen before. (Via)

The Stupidfilter. Mith says this won't work as you can't apply Bayesian probability to non-stochastic variables, and anyway, it doesn't even work all that well for spam because spammers defeat filters like this using precisely the sort of thing that this filter is going to check for (i.e. egregious violations of grammar, spelling and punctuation rules). (Via)

This is a load of bloggocks. You're not going to save journalism by buying an iPod or letting the comments on YouTube turn your brain to pea soup. Fuck off. (Via)

When I have a bit more time, I'd like to do a longish post about the state of exercise writing - er, that is, writing about exercise. It seems to be that there are a number of common tropes and linguistic markers (including the I Hit A Plateau And This Proves That Conventional Thinking About Exercise Is Wrong Trope, the The Fact That I had Painful Illnesses At An Early Age Proves That Conventional Thinking About Exercise Is Wrong Trope and the Caveman Ancestor Trope With Added Biology) that readers could use to easily identify quackitude (see The Case Against Cardio which contains all three tropes mentioned). But I'd need to study on it, and long-time readers know what happens to those ideas I have for posts to write in the indeterminate future, so don't wait up for that post. In the mean time, I'm tossing this out just to get the notion into public view. Maybe someone else will pick up this ball and run with it. (Via)

October 13, 2007

Diary of a Process Junkie

Diary of a Process junkie is the life/art blog of Alberto Ruiz, and has lots of lovely writing and reference material for artists, such as exhaustive lists of classic anatomy books, plus links to digital versions of same. Me like, me download. I especially like the many peeks into the books Ruiz publishes himself through his company, Brandstudio Press. Very geared towards cartoony pin-up type art, but all the artists involve can draw like mo-fos. Spend a couple of hours reading what Ruiz has to say about drawing and downloading the resources. (Via)

October 14, 2007

Four-mile run results

I ran the 4 Mijl van Groningen in 30minutes 32.9 seconds today, which was a whole 4 minutes off last year's result. It was also quite a bit faster than I expected to run on the basis of Wednesday's training or my result in the four-mile event at the Thaisner Dörpsrun two weeks ago, when I ran 34:05. On the other hand, that last run was done on a trajectory riddled with potholes and covered in cowpats, in windy, rainy, chilly conditions. And it was a couple hundred meters longer than 4 miles. On the third hand, today's summery heat wasn't exactly ideal for running either.

To be honest, the village event in Thesinge was more fun than the 4 Mijl van Groningen. Fewer people, and the village atmosphere was just too good to be true. The start/finish line ran between the school and the church, and pretty much the entire population turned up to cheer. The people guarding the route came out looking like absolute troopers, staying at their posts to guide everyone in the right direction in the cold rain. Oh, and there was even a guess-the-weight-of-the-pumpkin competition run by the schoolkids.

The 4 Mijl van Groningen is more of a real sporting event, with some top athletes on the roster running it in 18 minutes or thereabouts. Still, for the non-competitive part, it's also a celebration of running and of people's individual health and fitness goals.

One thing I did this year that I'm never going to do again is go to the starting area in my day clothes, change on location and hand over my stuff to the clothes trucks that the organisation provides. While all this is handled reasonably professionally, it's still a pain in the arse to have to deal with. My goal was to have a little more flexibility in picking out what outfit to wear, but as I arrived very late, I had to change in a hurry, then rush to the truck to hand my stuff over. So next year, I'm going back to paying attention to the satellite weather forecast, traveling to the start in my running clothes carrying my keys and maybe a few euros for emergencies, like I did last year. It's a lot less stressful.

30:33 is just a little slower than the last result accomplished by my boss at work, so I guess I'll never hear the end of it when I show up there tomorrow morning.

By the way, my start number was 17721, in case you want to check on my claim/look at embarrassing photographs when they're published.

See also: Jeroen's experiences. Seems he has the same problem that used to bugged me as late as last year (but which has since cleared up for me through careful training).

October 17, 2007

The 24 Hour Comic Day Groningen Blog is a blog about the 24-hour comic day in Groningen

I'll be taking part in 24 hour comic day on location at the Stripmuseum in Groningen on Saturday, October 20, into Sunday, October 21. The event will be blogged at the 24-hour comic day Groningen blog, with updates showing the latest work from the participants. There's even ominous talk of a webcam, so there's a chance you'll not only get to see what I look like, but also to see me and the creme de la creme of Groningen's cartooning subculture get completely zonked out and worn away to a pathetic stub of a human being over the course of 24 hours.

There's an impressive roster signed up already. Calvin is taking part, as is Jelena, but Jeroen, while listed, has mentioned that he might not have the energy this year as he's in the midst of moving house. But he might change his mind...

October 19, 2007

Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) first impressions

I'm typing this in a freshly downloaded version of Opera running on the LiveCD version of Kubuntu, the KDE version of Ubuntu, release no. 7.10, Gutsy Gibbon, on my home machine.

That's the good news, in many ways. I've always liked having LiveCD distros around because they're very useful for testing stuff, staying abreast of the state of linux technology without having to risk buggering up your computer, and as rescue systems with which to access your computer after you've buggered it up. But in my experience, the actual performance of LiveCD distros has often left a lot to be desired. Some of them haven't worked at all; some others worked on one machine but not another. None of them could ever connect to the Internet on my home machine. Not one. Until this one. That's a big step ahead, because it makes the things I want to do with it (testing software and troubleshooting my main installation when it isn't working) that much easier.

Scanning and sound all work, which is great, and the OS is even dimly aware of my TV card, though I didn't get around to configuring it and finally getting some TV signal out of it. It correctly guessed the size of my display, though it did smoosh the desktop picture horizontally a bit, another thing I didn't get round to fixing, because software-based display configuration didn't work and I can never remember what happens after I adjust the screen itself - whether it automatically resets itself whenever I boot into a new system or if it keeps the new settings between OSes - so I didn't.

A lot of other things, however, haven't got that much easier, and some of the supposedly easy things don't work. For example, Amarok currently plays any music file I ask it to, as long as it's an Ogg Vorbis file. No worries, most of my music is in Ogg anyway, and besides, the first time it encountered an mp3 file, it prompted me to download the MP3 support libraries. Lovely, except that after downloading and installing said libraries and prompting me to restart the application, it still doesn't play MP3 files, and prompts me again to install the MP3 support.

The idea is nice though, and I'd have liked a similar feature (except functional, ha ha) for the movie player, which plays even fewer codec formats out of the box than SuSE does. Open source zealotry has its advantages, but it's disastrous for linux as a multimedia platform. This is one thing Knoppix definitely does better.

Likewise, the new software package management front-end, Adept, makes software installation as easy as falling off a log, and every bit as pointless. On my first try, it reported completing the installation of all the newnew softwarem then proceeded not to show the new apps anywhere at all. Strangely, when I had another go, it did install Firefox but still didn't show me the apps I'd installed in my first attempt. Something strange is going on here. Luckily the Debian installer clearly works, so Opera got running on the first try and a whole list of possible causes could be ruled out.

Adept, by the way, is fairly slow. I'm guessing this is because what it does is download the source code and its dependent libraries, then compiles it behind the user's back, thus rendering moot the distinction between source and binary installation. But I can't be sure, because it doesn't give a whole lot of feedback on what it's doing.

The same problem of non-install installs may or may not apply to the desktop eye-candy that was promised- it may simply be that my hardware doesn't support it, or it may be that the nVidia driver only claims to have been installed without actually running in any meaningful sense, or ... well, whatever it is, it'll take some time to find out. It doesn't take a lot of trouble to tell me the reason, anyway.

And that brings me to the biggest problem. I recall that previous versions of Ubuntu had an obvious way to save any changes I made to it between sessions. Or was I thinking of Knoppix? Anyway, that way, I could at least build on what I already knew, in the knowledge that whenever I called it quits and switched off, the work wouldn't be lost. So what if installing software and configuring system functions was a bit more complicated than promised? I wouldn't have to do it often, and I'd learn stuff on the way. But I'm not going to dig into the bowels of my OS if my changes are going to be wiped out anyway.

When it comes to actually using the OS, getting online, playing music, accessing the drives, etcetera, Kubuntu 7.10 does seem to be running smoothly enough. and what is actually on the CD is easy to use. The System control panel should be instantly familiar to OS X users, and there's potentially nifty stuff in there like preconfigured zeroconf networking (useless to me right now but I'm thinking of building a home network). Kubuntu is also backed up by speedy bug reporting from the community, and has a nifty, immediate approach to allowing users to contribute to internationalisation, which I want to investigate further. At the very least I'll try it out again to familiarise myself with its workings, and maybe I'll look into installing it on a separate partition once I'm sure it doesn't brutally overwrite my current bootloader. In short, not quite there, for my purposes, but closer than the last version I tried.

October 24, 2007

Mahometan hordes smaller than expected, or so the mahometan hordes claim

Sadly, No reports a comment from a Little Green Footballs commenter that is just too priceless for words:

#21 galloping granny 10/24/07 9:21:47 am

A friend is visiting from Europe who was in Amsterdam last Friday. I asked him about the ongoing car-b-ques and he did not know the first thing about them, even though he is from the UK and is in and out of Amsterdam a couple of times a month on business.

I think the Dutch authorities are keeping this VERY, very quiet.

In related news, there are far fewer muslims in the Netherlands than was previously thought, according to the Centraal Bureau for the Statistiek, so anyone who might be reading this who is just dying for the Great Clash of Civilisations to finally happen can just put it back in their pants right now. The Bureau came to this conclusion by switching methodologies: instead of making an educated guess about religion in immigrant communities based on existing demographic data about immigrant populations, they went to the immigrants themselves and asked them what religion they were.

Which of course will offer the likes of "Galloping Granny" an easy way out of having to admit that they haven't got a feckin' clue what they're talking about: of course they're all really Islamonaziwhatevers, they're just lying about it the better to infiltrate into our enlightened and therefore vulnerable society. You just can't trust them, can you?

October 27, 2007

Selling art to raise money for print editions

All original art from the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan stories Headsmen and Devil is now for sale through my Comicspace galleries. Moneys raised will go towards financing new print editions of Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan, which I should finally be able to get together in 2008.

When I was in my financial crisis earlier this year, sales of original art made a big difference. Now that that's over and I'm no longer living hand to mouth, it's time to get proactive. I want ROCR back in print and I want it to be done well, i.e. colour while available and decent print quality as well as good design, promotion and a good print run. To make this possible, I'm selling off as many originals as I can. This batch of 26 original pages and one drawing is just the start. Pages from Feral will soon follow, as well as more pages from Invasion. Some pages from the latter story are still available through the Webcomicsnation Swapmeet where you can see how they look in black and white. Also, more pages - everything I've ever published online, in fact - are available for sale on request. If there's a page or single drawing in the archives you want, just ask me about it and we'll make a deal!

For this new batch, I've switched from the Webcomicsnation Swapmeet to Comicspace because the latter site allows for much faster data entry and Paypal button generation, especially with already-existing galleries. Downsides include a lack of space to put detailed sales information in, so I can't offer alternate views of the black and white product, or mention that all pages shipped to buyers will include an A4 (297 x 210 mm) print of the finished page, so you also get it in colour.

October 29, 2007

Comicspace and Webcomicsnation to merge

ComicSpace and WCN are Merging, and Getting Investment Capital.

I knew about the investment capital but I hadn't seen the merger coming in a million years. And yet it makes perfect sense. They really are complementary services run by complementary talents, to the point where I could use the word "synergy" with a straight face without feeling a complete wanker.

I'm very excited about this news. This doesn't usually happen when there's talk of mergers and investment capital, but it is happening now.

This should help me bring the productivity back up

I haven't had much time to go to the studio, but with this:

Photoshop 7 running under Wine in (K)Ubuntu 7.10. Click to enlarge

...I should be able to do more of my work at home.

So far, I've only had one problem to solve: Photoshop needs the Microsoft core fonts, otherwise the Text tool doesn't work, even if you don't want to use any of those fonts with the Text tool (also, it doesn't know how to display its menus, but that's not all that serious). Once I'd figured out that that was the problem, it was trivially easy to solve (which I did with these two-year-old instructions). I've stress-tested PS with the Liquefy filter on a large image, and while it didn't like to have to do that, it completed the filter eventually, without crashing.
Also, Save For Web is a little bit quirky when you try to save as PNG (the entry field for entering the number of colours doesn't work too well) and scanning directly into Photoshop doesn't work, though there may be a way to make it. It's a luxury anyway, as I can scan through other applications.
And that's about it. PS 7 has Platinum status at Wine HQ which means that it's supposed to work almost exactly as well as it does under Windows, and as far as I can tell, this is justified. PS 7 is positively ancient, but in this case, that's an advantage. It's got all I need, anyway.

Of course, with my newly reinstalled linux system (and I'm really liking Ubuntu a little better every day), I'm also keeping an eye on GIMP. Version 2.4 has been released and looks very capable. Its interface is still scary but I'm used to it. I do wonder what happened to the internationalisation in it, as I can't find the Dutch-language UI files for it anywhere. It's about the only part of Ubuntu 7.10 that hasn't been properly internationalised. GIMP Internationalisation used to work on my SuSE system. Also, I found a Save for Web plugin for it but it refuses to compile and build.

My plan is to finish my current projects in PS one way or another, but try a new, small project in GIMP at some point, to get back into practice and see how well it's been developed over the past few years.

About October 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Waffle in October 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

September 2007 is the previous archive.

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